Master Trooper Gary Miller with South Carolina Highway Patrol understands York County drivers might not be thrilled to see so many of his officers in the coming month. But he hopes drivers will understand why they’re there.
“Nobody wants to be the next one pulled over,” he said. “But even less, nobody wants to be the next one to get a knock at the door.”
York and Lancaster counties have seen an unusually high number of fatalities on their roads this year. While fatalities statewide were down through Labor Day compared to 2018, they increased in York and Lancaster counties. Over Labor Day weekend, there were eight fatalities in five days in the two counties.
In York County, through the same span last year there 25 fatalities, while this year there have been 41.
“We had a decrease in overall collisions, an increase in citations or enforcement, and the fatality numbers were way up,” Miller said.
So more law enforcement officers are being deployed.
“They’re coming in from other areas, and they’re going to be aggressively enforcing laws like speed, DUI, looking for people driving left of center or distracted, seat belts,” Miller said.
Officers will look for other infractions but will focus on driver safety issues.
“They’re going to be looking for anything and everything that they can do because our goal is to stop this loss of life,” Miller said.
York County has received a grant for traffic safety that will be used to pay for two new deputy positions for road safety, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.
Troopers will evaluate the situation at the end of October to see what more may be needed.
“We’re trying to specifically address the increase of loss of life from fatal collisions we’ve had here in York County,” Miller said.
Specific highways with more crashes and more serious injuries are the main target.
“We are basically aggressively enforcing the law in problem areas,” Miller said. “We’ve identified Highway 5, I-77, (S.C.) 49, (U.S.) 321, (U.S.) 21 and Paraham Road right now in York County.”
The highway patrol and York County Sheriff’s Office cover many of the same highways, one focusing more on traffic and the other on law enforcement. Both respond to wrecks with serious injuries or death.
“As law enforcement partners, we are grateful for these efforts and remain committed to making the roads as safe as they can be for all drivers,” Tolson said.
As York County grows, there are more vehicles on local roads, Tolson said. It’s especially acute in Lake Wylie, north of Fort Mill to the North Carolina state line, and east of Rock Hill to the Lancaster County line along U.S. 21 and S.C. 5., officials said.
Miller’s top driver’s safety tips: Slow down and increase following distance.
“Put the phone down,” Miller said. “Leave the radio alone. Let the kids take care of themselves for a few minutes, and focus on driving the car.”
Writing tickets isn’t the goal. But if tickets help keep drivers and passengers alive, Miller said highway patrol is ready to write them.
“You can talk to people, but when you’re pulled over with the blue lights behind you, people take responsibility differently,” he said. “We’re here for a purpose, and our purpose is to reduce the loss of life.”
Herald reporter Andrew Dys contributed.